Plane Danger: Will overhead lockers soon be locked?
However, the high value of such belongings in cabin baggage is resulting in a worrying number of travellers risking their lives – and those of others – in a bid to save their personal effects during emergency evacuations.
Experts are now calling for airlines to lock overhead bins during flights to prevent such action.
The call to introduce remote controlled lockers was made in a new report called “Emergency Evacuation of Commercial Passenger Aeroplanes” by the Royal Aeronautical Society.
“The widespread ownership of smart phones has led to an increasing amount of photographic evidence showing passengers retrieving cabin baggage and taking it with them despite the potential threat to interfere with safe and expeditious evacuations,” the report states.
The increasing trend of grabbing valuables is made worse by the increasing volume of cabin baggage permitted by operators.
It’s only a matter of time before an evacuation occurs when the issue of cabin baggage becomes a survival factor.
Due to severe restrictions on hold luggage, various operators now charge to check in such baggage as well as if cabin luggage exceeds size imitations.
A further issue is that fliers tend to store such important items as passports, legal and business documents, laptops, mobile phones, cameras, other electronic equipment and medicines in these bags.
“The probability is that passengers will want to take such items with them in an evacuation, the more so if cabin baggage is all that a passenger has with them for their journey,” says the report.
The dramatic increase in ‘airside’ airport shops has also contributed to cabin stowage problems.
An alarming example of a passenger risking everything for materials goods is when a British Airways plane crashed on final approach at London Heathrow on 17 January 2008.
Plane Danger: Access to cabin luggage may soon be restricted
An Accident Report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) noted that one flier, having evacuated the plane, re-entered the passenger cabin via an evacuation slide in order to retrieve personal belongings.
Other accidents where passengers evacuated with cabin baggage include:
• Air France A340-3300 Toronto, Canada 2 August 2005
• Virgin Atlantic A330-300 London Gatwick, UK 16 April 2012
• Asiana Airlines B777-200 San Francisco, USA 6 July 2013
Plane Danger: Experts think lockers should be locked
• Air Canada A320-200 Halifax, Canada 29 March 2015
• British Airways B777-200 Las Vegas, USA 8 September 2015
• Emirates B777-300 Dubai, Emirates 3 August 2016
According to the report, “Most of the above accident were catastrophic, involving external fire and in one case fuselage disruption.
“These accidents required a degree of urgency in the evacuation, yet passengers seemed to be more concerned with their personnel possessions rather than their own safety or the safety of fellow passengers.”
Plane Danger: Accessing your luggage in an emergency could cause injury
Taking cabin baggage in an emergency could hinder evacuation, injure passengers and damage evacuation slides.
Consequently, steps may well need to be taken to prevent this occurring. One option is for the overhead bins to be centrally locked for taxi, take off and landing. Passengers could still access their under-seat items, however.
The website for the new Russian Irkhut MC-21 aeroplane believes more drastic action should be taken.
They suggest bins should be “equipped with remotely-controlled interlocking electromechanical locks, and be visually monitored by the cabin crew.”
Currently the cabin crew simply do not have enough control over passengers who insist on removing their belongings in an evacuation. The report fears that’s it’s only a “matter of time before an evacuation occurs when the issue of cabin baggage becomes a survival factor.”